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In Flanders Fields

by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae

Poem Backstory

Composed on May 3, 1915. Lieut. Col. John McCrae was a Canadian physician who served in the South African war as an artilleryman. He was on his way to Canada when the war began in 1914, and immediately upon landing he entered the Val Cartier training camp and was commissioned a Captain. Later he joined the McGill Hospital corps and went with it to France, where he rose to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, and died in service, January 28, 1918.
His poem, In Flanders' Fields, was written on the Flanders front in the Spring of 1915. Its inspiration is thus explained by Sergeant Charles E Bisset, of the 19th Battalion, 1st Brigade, Canadian Infantry:
"On the Flanders front in the early Spring of 1915, when the war had settled down to trench fighting, two of the most noticeable features of the field were, first, the luxuriant growth of red poppies appearing among the graves of the fallen soldiers, and second, that only one species of bird the larks remained on the field during the fighting. As soon as the cannonading ceased, they would rise in the air, singing."

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead.
Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.